It always starts with the best of intentions: an attempt to bring the nature of New Jersey into my city apartment or office. It usually ends with dried-out seedlings or mold.
The AeroGarden from AeroGrow is a computerized garden with a lamp that will allow the most negligent gardener to successfully grow plants. You fill the bottom with water, add the little seeded cones and nutrient tablets, and plug the AeroGarden into any regular outlet. That's it. This "smart" appliance self-regulates the amount of light, water and nutrients it allows the plants to receive. A warning light comes on when water is low or when you need to add more nutrient tablets. The height of the lamp can be adjusted as plants grow taller.
The device is based on the aeroponics technology developed by NASA for growing food in space without soil. The AeroGarden can go it alone for up to two weeks, according to the company, and plants grow five times faster than they would in soil. The AeroGarden, which comes with one seed kit, sells for $150 on Amazon.com. The gadget is available in black or white. Additional seed sets are $20 and include petunias, French herbs, Japanese herbs, chili peppers or cherry tomatoes.